The company car of the future: A hub for yoga, sleeping and relaxing

Is this what the company car of 2050 could like? The futuristic model is a fully electric, colour-changing vehicle with space for passengers to make the most of the time they spend in the autonomous car – by relaxing, doing yoga and even sleeping during the commute.

Featuring ‘digital paint’, the car allows passengers to change the colour and style of the vehicle from the tap of an app, depending on their mood, with advances in technology meaning such a feature could be widely available as early as 2040.

Designed to be a home away from home, passengers can relax and unwind on the built-in mattress in the centre of the spacious cabin

The glimpse into the future is courtesy of Auto Trader, which claims to be the UK’s largest digital marketplace for new and used cars. It compiled the concept design based on the expertise of futurologist Tom Cheesewright, market trends, the rate of technological development and research into consumer demand.

The 2050 driverless car is in the shape of a smooth pod and has features that include a built-in library and large in-built TV screen. The vehicle welcomes passengers with a friendly AI (artificial intelligence) that helps them set their preferred driving speed and style, whether out for a leisurely Sunday drive or dashing home for dinner.

The car is fitted with windows that extend right over the roof in one large bubble, offering more head room to allow passengers to freely move around during transit.

It also features 360 degree panoramic views for those wanting to sit back, relax and enjoy an autonomous ride, plus black-out functionality on the windows, which can be activated with a quick tap.

Auto Trader’s Rory Reid said: “The Government’s recent announcement on bringing forward the ban on sales of petrol, diesel, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars to 2035 is already influencing what Brits are looking for. Overnight we saw a 165% increase in searches for electric vehicles on Auto Trader.

“So it’s no surprise that the 2050 car will be fully electric, but it’s fascinating to think what these advancements, including driverless tech, could mean for the actual design of cars and how they could be used.

Futurologist, Mr Cheesewright said: “Tomorrow’s car takes you from A to B with minimum fuss and in maximum style. Future technologies will give designers free reign to create more space and comfort, so that we can get on with our lives, while an AI takes care of the driving. While our cars won’t be flying any time soon, we can all benefit from cleaner, quieter, safer roads. In just 20 years, the age of the combustion engine will be well and truly over.”

Pump prices plummet as oil falls to 18-year-low and could plunge further

The cost of unleaded petrol has dropped to almost £1 a litre at supermarket forecourts with a litre of diesel at around 110p following unprecedented falls in pump prices – and further cuts could follow.

Fleet fuel bills will naturally tumble as a result – although vehicles should now only be driven on essential journeys under the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic lockdown implemented by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Fuel station forecourts are among the ‘essential businesses’ the Government is allowing to stay open.

However, the RAC has warned of “a darker side” to the fuel price cuts. RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “Smaller independent forecourts who will already have been struggling due to a loss of trade recently will be extremely hard-pushed to reduce their prices at the present time with fewer people driving. It’s crucial they stay in business as they provide such an important service to drivers in parts of the country where the supermarkets have no footprint.”

Amid far-reaching concerns over the spread of coronavirus, Mr Williams advised drivers filling up with fuel to “take sensible precautions”. He said: “Follow the social distancing guidelines and use disposable gloves when handling pumps or indeed electric car charge point nozzles.”

A series of moves have triggered the fall in fuel prices. In early March, oil prices tumbled after a failure by Saudi Arabia and Russia to agree on cutting back oil production in the wake of falling global demand due to the deadly coronavirus. As a result, Saudi Arabia said it would flood the market with oil.

That led to a barrel of crude oil trading at around $35, but prices have since fallen further and there are even reports oil companies are preparing for the price to slump to just $10 a barrel, which would trigger further price cuts at the pumps.

Generally speaking it takes approximately two weeks for a fall in crude oil prices to feed through to the pumps. Prices ended 2019 at $61 a barrel.

What’s more, there was widespread speculation in the run-up to the March Budget that the Chancellor would increase fuel duty. However, he decided against that thus helping to keep the lid on any pump price rise.

Then, this week, as the nation plunged further into the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, supermarkets Morrisons and Asda led the round of price cuts.

Morrisons was first cutting an unprecedented in one go 12p off the price of a litre of unleaded petrol. Simultaneously the price of a litre of diesel was cut by 8p. Asda reacted and said that drivers would now pay no more than 102p a litre for unleaded petrol and 108.7p a litre for diesel when filling up.

Mr Williams said: “These unprecedented times are leading to unprecedented price cuts on fuel – the largest single cut from a retailer we’ve ever seen. The price of oil has fallen so far – down to an 18-year low – that it was inevitable that pump prices would eventually follow suit.

These savings will directly benefit those people who continue to rely on their vehicles for essential journeys.”

Government fuels ‘green’ fleet revolution with wide ranging tax and fiscal incentives

The Government has fuelled a green vehicle drive with a range of Budget 2020 announcements designed to increase the corporate take-up of zero emission vehicles.

What’s more the combination of Budget announcements – led by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak providing benefit-in-kind tax clarity for the next five years – is predicted to fuel increased demand for company cars from employees.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to end the sale of new petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2040 and in all likelihood earlier, perhaps 2035 or even 2032.

Against that timeline, fleet operator representative organisations say that it is imperative that businesses and company car drivers focus on moving towards operating and driving 100% electric vehicles.

The Budget announcements would, according to the newly launched Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP) – formed as a result of the merger of both ACFO and ICFM – as well as the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) and Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, support fleets and help drive the uptake of electric vehicles. They included:

  • £532 million to maintain the Plug-In Car and Van Grants until March 2023, although support for zero emission cars was cut with immediate effect from £3,500 to £3,000 per vehicle and cars costing £50,000 or more are now excluded
  • A continuation of the Workplace Charging Scheme grant, although from April 1, 2020 the amount of funding is cut from £500 to £350 per socket. However, the number of sockets allowed under the programme has been doubled from 20 to 40. The Government says that more than 6,500 workplace installations have been made to date and that cutting financial support will enable more businesses to benefit. Ministers also said that the average cost of chargepoint installations had steadily reduced since the introduction of the Scheme, so the decrease was in line with purchase prices
  • Exempting until March 31, 2025 all zero emission vehicles from the Vehicle Excise Duty ‘expensive car supplement’, which increases from £320 to £325 from April 1, 2020
  • Eliminating the Van Benefit Charge for zero emission vans from April 2021. However, in 2020/21 the van benefit charge will rise as planned to 80% of the main rate (2019/20: 60%)
  • Extending from April 2021 for four years the 100% first year capital allowance to zero emission cars only
  • Pledging £500 million to support the roll-out of a fast-charging network for electric vehicles, ensuring that drivers would never be further than 30 miles from a rapid charging station.

 Caroline Sandall, AFP joint chairman, said: “It is imperative that fleet decision-makers and company car drivers focus on moving towards operating and driving 100% electric vehicles.”

 While Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the BVRLA, said: “The Budget shows that the Government is listening and is ready to support those that are ambitious enough to embrace its decarbonisation targets.

“The Plug in Car Grant and Vehicle Excise Duty measures will play a massive role in making electric vehicles more affordable for thousands upon thousands of businesses and drivers across the UK.”

Reflecting on the raft of measures to support a ‘green vehicle drive’ and the beginnings of a market transition, Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, added: “We are pleased to see the Chancellor find room in his Budget to help make zero emission motoring a more viable option for more drivers – essential if we are to begin to meet extremely challenging environmental ambitions.”

Meanwhile, the Budget Statement confirmed that previously announced benefit-in-kind tax rates for 2020/21, 2021/22 and 2022/23 would be implemented as planned and that rates for 2023/24 and 2024/25 would be frozen at 2022/23 rates.

 Paul Hollick, AFP joint chairman, said: “With company car benefit-in-kind tax rates now known for a full five-year vehicle cycle, which is the norm for some organisations, the Budget could herald a resurgence of the company car. That’s because many drivers’ decision to opt out of a ‘favourite’ employee perk was driven by tax uncertainty.”

While Mr Keaney said: “Having a roadmap for the future of company car tax up to 2025 removes the uncertainty that we know stifles business decisions.”

Coronavirus pandemic: Fleet industry transitions to keep wheels of business turning

The fleet industry and the wider automotive sector is transitioning rapidly as the UK and the rest of the world tackles the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Prior and subsequent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ‘lockdown’ address to the nation on Monday (March 23) there have been numerous developments and further changes impact on the fleet industry can be expected.

At the time of going to press the following is what is known:

  • Garages, fuel stations and car rental outlets are among the ‘essential businesses’ the Government is allowing to stay open.
  • When filling up with fuel it is advised to take ‘take sensible precautions’. These include: Following the social distancing guidelines and using disposable gloves when handling pumps or electric car charge point nozzles.
  • Individual businesses within the ‘essential businesses’ sectors may decide to close – Kia has announced that approximately 40% of workshops at its 196 dealerships will continue to run an essential-only service – and garage/workshops may have to rearrange existing vehicle servicing and repair bookings. Additionally, some garages are restricting some services such as collection and delivery and ‘while you wait’ servicing and are urging customers to clean their vehicles before handover.
  • All cars, vans and motorcycles which usually would require an MoT test are exempted from needing a test from Monday, March 30 2020 for six months, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has announced. With legislation coming into immediate effect for 12 months, effectively it means that existing MoTs are valid for 18 months. Vehicles must be kept in a roadworthy condition, and garages will remain open for essential repair work. Drivers can be prosecuted if at the wheel of an unsafe vehicles. If drivers cannot get an MoT that’s due because they are in self-isolation, the Department for Transport is working with insurers and the police to ensure people are not unfairly penalised for things out of their control.
  • The DVSA has suspended MoTs for all HGVs, trailers and public service vehicles for up to three months from March 21, 2020. All HGV and PSV vehicles as well as trailers with an MoT will be automatically issued with a three-month certificate of temporary exemption. Operators will not receive a paper exemption certificate. Instead, the MoT will be extended by three months from its current due date. But the DVSA said that vehicles must be maintained, kept safe to drive and operated within the terms of Operators’ Licence conditions throughout that time.
  • Transport for London has temporarily suspended all road user charging schemes – the Congestion Charge, Ultra-Low Emission Zone and Low Emission Zone – in the city until further notice.
  • Car showrooms are among the businesses, premises and places that have been forced to close by the Government. As a result, new car and van deliveries are on hold.
  • Vehicle collections will almost certainly not occur. Vehicle remarketing companies have reduced their sale offerings to ‘online only’ sales at best as auctions are deemed to be ‘non-essential’ by the Government.
  • The suspension of vehicle production by almost every vehicle manufacturer in the UK and globally means that existing vehicle orders can be expected to be delayed and lead times will increase for future orders once plants again become operational. The length of factory closures varies, but typically runs to three or four weeks and longer in some cases with all manufacturers saying they will keep a production return under review.
  • Local authorities are delaying the introduction of planned Clean Air Zones later this year. Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council, which were due to introduce the UK’s first Zero Emission Zone in the university city in December, now say the scheme will implemented in summer 2021. Meanwhile, Birmingham City Council has written to the Government requesting postponement to the launch of its Clean Air Zone. Scheduled for implementation in summer 2020, councillors have asked for a delay “until at least the end of the calendar year”. It is also likely that Leeds City Council will delay implementation of its Clean Air Zone, which is due for introduction on September 28. However, any delay has yet to be officially confirmed by the authority.
  • UK Road Offender Education, which operates, manages, administers and develops the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme on behalf of the police, has suspended all classroom-based courses for an initial period of 12 weeks. The courses bring drivers together in one place, as an alternative to prosecution for some motoring offences including speeding. The organisation said that it would now work with forces and course providers to establish options to deal with drivers who had already been offered a course. Drivers will be contacted to explain what is going to happen next by the police force which issued the offer or the course provider. Drivers caught committing an offence when driving during the ‘lockdown’ are now likely to receive a fine and penalty points on their licence instead of the discretionary offer of a course that is no longer a current option.

Paul Ayris, fleet manager at Fleet Service Great Britain (Fleet Service GB) customer LiveWest, the largest provider of affordable homes in the south west of England, said: “We are monitoring the coronavirus situation daily. We will continue to provide essential business services to our customers and to protect our staff, and we have put contingency plans in place should our operations get disrupted at a point in the future.
“We appreciate that we are in uncertain times. We are working hard to ensure that it is business as usual for us and to continue to provide a full range of services to our customers. We recognise that we need to manage our services in a more flexible way and would like to thank everyone for their support.
“The need to have a functioning fleet is essential at all times, and especially at a time of national crisis. We are relaying on the support of our suppliers such as Fleet Service GB to provide the support they can in these difficult times, whilst appreciating they are in the same situation.”

Geoffrey Bray, executive chairman, Fleet Service GB, said: “With so many employees home-working and self-isolating many company cars are not clocking up the daily and weekly mileage they did previously. As a result, maintenance costs are reducing and some fleets are postponing services as well as maintenance and repairs because vehicle wheels are not turning.

“Equally, some garages and workshops are suffering from employees being off work and, as a result, are having to reschedule booked service, maintenance and repair work.”

Health and hygiene initiatives vital

Undoubtedly there will be changes in business practices as new health and hygiene initiatives are introduced to reflect the social distancing rules recommended by the Government.

For example, fast-fit giant Kwik Fit has said: “Where possible, our centres remain open and operating as normal, as is our mobile fleet. Our number one priority remains the safety and wellbeing of our people and customers, providing a safe and clean environment for everyone.

“The company has seen a 15% increase in enquiries for appointments for tyre fitting at customers’ homes, the majority of which are due to customers self-isolating after being impacted by the Government’s latest guidance on the coronavirus.

“The company, which operates a fleet of more than 200 mobile tyre fitting vehicles across the UK, has put special precautions in place to ensure that it is helping to stem the spread of the virus, while also ensuring that motorists have access to a safe car if they need it in an emergency.

“To avoid direct contact between the Kwik Fit technician and the customer, the company is asking customers to provide their car key without direct contact, for instance by putting the key on their front doorstep and going back inside. Once the customer is at a safe distance, the technician will pick the key up. Where possible, Kwik Fit will ask the customer to also provide the locking wheel nut from inside the vehicle. This way, Kwik Fit can carry out the work without entering the interior of the car.

“The technicians themselves are thoroughly cleaning their hands between each job and using fresh protective gloves for each vehicle. These measures, along with not coming into close contact with the customer, are designed to minimise any risk of passing infection between customers.

“We’ve temporarily changed our practices to help minimise contact and will not ask customers for their signature on paperwork or in store tablets. We will clearly demonstrate work that is required to make a vehicle safe, show drivers any parts removed and demonstrate any faults. Customers will be invited to receive quotations and invoices by email which we would appreciate them accepting to minimise contact.

“While normal life has been severely curtailed and many people are keeping travel to a minimum, it is still important for people’s peace of mind that their car is ready in case of emergency. Those car owners who are self-isolating have realised that mobile fitting is the perfect way to ensure their car is in a safe condition for when they are once more free to move around. We have responded to the increased requirements with greater stock levels to meet demand, but more importantly, by introducing key precautions to help reduce the spread of the virus.

“We will update our operations in accordance with Government advice and provide information via our website.”

Rival fast-fit National Tyres and Autocare, said in a statement: “We are taking extra precautions in our branches across the UK in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“All our staff routinely wear protective barrier gloves, fit seat covers and use floor mats before working on customers’ vehicles. Technicians work on ramps that are suitably spaced apart and customers do not need to interact with staff in the workshops space.

“As an additional precaution, and to minimise contact with staff and other customers, drivers have the option to call the branch when arriving rather than coming in to our reception area. We will see customers in order of arrival and they can remain in their vehicle until we are ready to begin work. Customers may wait in our reception area or if they prefer to leave the premises, we will give them a call to return when work is complete.

“We share everyone’s concerns in this unsettling period and will do everything we can to keep customers and our staff safe while working on a vehicle.”

Garage ‘concerns’ at MoT extension

Independent garages are “concerned” that their cash flow will be impacted by the Government’s decision to exempt all cars, vans and motorcycles from an MoT for six months.

Their trade body, the Independent Garage Association (IGA), has called on the Government to change the measure. The IGA has urged to Government to start with an initial six-week MoT extension period, which could then then reviewed on a weekly basis, rather than the six months plan.

In a statement, the IGA said: “There are a number of reasons why deferring MoTs by six months will have a huge detrimental impact on the independent sector, which carries out over 80% of the UK’s 30 million yearly MoT tests.

“The Government needs to consider that many MoT operations, being small businesses, will have their cash flow seriously impacted once this situation is over. Next year will bring about a significant reduction of tests in March/April/May and with some businesses in this sector only conducting MoT tests, in these instances, the crisis will extend for many years ahead.

“The current MoT failure rate is 31%, which means that nearly 10 million vehicles do not meet even the basic roadworthiness level of compliance. Any length of MoT extension will consequently increase the number of vehicles that are unroadworthy, even given reduced usage, so the Government needs to take this into consideration.”

Stuart James, IGA chief executive, added: “We understand that measures need to be put in place to fight the virus, and support these measures, however we do not agree with the six months extension of MoTs. We urge the Government to show a degree of flexibility, as the repercussions for the independent sector will be severe.”

Vehicle rental support employers

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), whose rental members operate 1,800 outlets UK-wide and a combined fleet of 371,000 cars, vans and trucks, said: “Many people think of vehicle rental as the car that they pick up from an airport on their annual holiday. In reality, around half of all vehicle rental transactions are with businesses supporting the transportation of people and goods.”

BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “In these challenging times, vehicle rental is focussed on its most important customers. Right now, our members are providing cars to police forces, district nurses and Ministry of Defence sites; vans to plumbers and gas engineers; refrigerated lorries to food distributors and minibuses to schools with special educational needs.

“They may not have flashing lights or logos, but tens of thousands of rental vehicles across the UK are helping to keep our infrastructure running, our food stores stocked and our families safe and well.”

Used car prices tumble

Meanwhile, evidence is emerging of used car prices tumbling with the UK in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic. Conversely, the buoyancy of long-term used car prices could be helped by a slowdown in new car registrations in 2020.

Data from automotive valuation analysts Cazana, which studies market retail-driven pricing data on a real-time basis, suggests that over the middle two weeks of March the average price of petrol cars declined across all segments. Prices in the luxury car sector fell 16.96%, which the company called “very significant, and it was followed by: Executive cars down 7.33% and superminis down 5.87%.

By contrast the diesel sector is far more upbeat with prices increasing in all sectors apart from lower medium. Superminis showed the biggest positive uplift at 24.71% in retail pricing terms.

Cazana said: “Retail pricing for newly listed cars dropped by 6.6% between the second and third week of March representing a dip of on average £1,491 per vehicle.”

Used vehicle market experts at CAP HPI expect values to fall “by more than the seasonal norm over the coming weeks”. Its latest data reveals an average drop of 2.2% (-£275) on cars at the three-year/60,000-mile point. For newer used cars, the drop was 1.8% (-£425) at the one-year/20,000-mile point.

CAP HPI continued: “Our short-term forecasts for the coming months will be worse than otherwise would have been the case, as the effects of Covid-19 continue to be felt. At present, our longer-term forecasts for one to five years in the future are likely to remain broadly unchanged, as we wait to see longer-term impacts on new car registrations, especially following plant closures from many manufacturers. A fall in registrations this year could help support used values in the long term, and there are also a great many other factors which could yet influence values in various directions.”

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19

Government launches consultation to end sale of new petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid vehicle

Fleets will only be able to take delivery of new 100% electric or hydrogen-fuelled cars and vans from 2035 – and potentially earlier – if the Government has its way.

Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the Government would end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2035 at the latest – five years earlier than previously announced – to further crackdown on emissions and would include plug-in hybrid vehicles in the ban.

Now fleets are being asked by the Government for their views on the plan via a public consultation that asks five key questions:

  • The phase out date, which has been brought forward five years from 2040 and could be earlier if a faster transition appears feasible
  • The definition of what should be phased out
  • Barriers to achieving the above proposals
  • The impact of the ambitions on different sectors of industry and society
  • The measures required by Government and others to achieve an earlier phase out date.

The consultation document makes clear that owners of existing petrol, diesel, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars and vans would still be able to drive them and buy and sell them on the used market.

In announcing the plan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the measure “demonstrated the UK’s urgent action to reduce emissions” and added that the “Government will continue to work with all sectors of industry to accelerate the rollout of zero emission vehicles”.

The newly-elected Government’s first Budget on Wednesday, March 11 is expected to include a number of measures designed to accelerate the push towards an electric and hydrogen-powered fleet future.

Critical for the fleet industry is the continuation of the Plug-In Car and Van Grants, the former of which is due to be axed at the end of March.

The maximum Plug-In Car Grant is £3,500 – there is no definitive date on expiry of the £8,000 Plug-In Van Grant – and Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, said: “Fleets will only be able to meet the Government’s ambitious new decarbonisation goals if they are given the right support with electric vehicle grants, tax incentives and infrastructure costs.”

With the Budget imminent, he continued: “Budget 2020 is an opportunity to set the tone for a new decade in which the transition to decarbonised road transport will be won or lost.

“Fleets are being asked to invest billions of pounds in new electric vehicle technology and infrastructure, which comes at a hefty price premium to its petrol and diesel alternatives.

“To achieve these goals the Government must provide a clear support package through to at least 2025. It must preserve the Plug-In Car and Van Grants, maintain a strong set of tax incentives and tackle the huge and often arbitrary costs associated with fleet charging infrastructure.”

Hopes are also high that the tax incentives will include retaining the reduced rates of company car benefit-in-kind tax due to take effect from April 6 for several years beyond 2022/23 for which they have been announced to date.

Meanwhile, as Britain gears up for an electric future in potentially just three vehicle replacement cycles time on average, concern has been expressed in the House of Lords at the potential hazard caused by electric vehicles breaking down.

Potentially taking longer to be removed that from roads than broken down internal combustion engine models, the Department for Transport is reported to be examining measures to ensure that electric vehicles can be removed from roads quickly.

During a debate in the House of Lords, Baroness Randerson, a Liberal Democrat transport spokeswoman, said: “[Electric] vehicles stop very suddenly. They also cannot be towed; they have to be put on a low-loader, which is a much more complex and longer process that will put rescue teams in greater danger.”

The debate came with the safety of so-called smart motorways, which use hard shoulders as live lanes, under microscope. The AA has previously said that the increased use of electric vehicles could be incompatible with smart motorways due to the lack of emergency refuge areas.

Meanwhile, the Vehicle Remarketing Association has highlighted a potential “charging crisis” for remarketing companies as electric vehicles start to make their way on to the used car market in larger numbers.

As vehicles are defleeted it is currently “just a question of ensuring that there is sufficient fuel in the tank of each”, according to the Association. However, in a new world of electric vehicles it will be vital to ensure they are charged to a “useable degree” to move them around.

Sam Watkins, chairman of the Association whose members handle more than 1.5 million used vehicles each year, said: “Once an electric vehicle has a flat battery, the movement of it becomes a challenge as they must be handled in line with correct safety protocols which differ from internal combustion engines.”

The Government consultation runs until May 29. The consultation document can be viewed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consulting-on-ending-the-sale-of-new-petrol-diesel-and-hybrid-cars-and-vans/consulting-on-ending-the-sale-of-new-petrol-diesel-and-hybrid-cars-and-vans

Fatigued fleet drivers pose major road safety threat

Company car drivers are among those most at risk from a fatigue-related collision with a road safety organisation now calling for action to overcome tiredness.

The road safety sector has identified driver fatigue as one of the ‘five high-risk’ driver behaviour action areas to cut work-related road crashes. The others are: Speeding, time pressures, inside and outside vehicle distractions, and using mobile phone devices whilst driving, whether hand-held or hands-free.

Now road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist is urging drivers to be wise to the dangers of fatigue on journeys.

It says that the risks are ‘particularly high among those who drive for work’, and singles out company car drivers as they are likely to be at the wheel for long periods, or with tight deadlines to meet in the course of a day. GEM also identifies truck drivers, shift workers and young male drivers as those most at risk from a fatigue-related collision.

Around 85 per cent of drivers who cause fatigue-related crashes are male, and more than one third of these are aged under 30, according to research by road safety charity Brake.

GEM road safety officer Neil Worth said: “Exhausted drivers pose a significant safety threat, to themselves, to their passengers and to others who share the same road space. Fatigue is a major contributory factor in around 20% of road crashes, particularly in the early hours of the morning. However, on long, monotonous stretches of motorway it’s likely that a much greater proportion of collisions will be fatigue-related.

“Collisions occur when an exhausted driver fails to respond quickly and safely if a dangerous situation arises. These collisions are typically around 50% more likely to result in death or serious injury, as the driver is unable to take avoiding action to reduce severity of an impact.”

Driver safety and wellbeing is a priority at Fleet Service GB. As part of their range of services, their bespoke Driver Handbooks created for clients, cover in detail specific safety risks, such as fatigue and stress, and outline the best practice to avoid them. This gives the driver the tools to become better and safer drivers.

Top tips to help drivers’ reduce the risk of being in a fatigue-related collision

  • Preventing fatigue is more helpful than having to deal with it, so ensure you get a good night’s sleep before heading off on a long trip
  • Don’t drive for more than eight to 10 hours in a day. Aim to share the driving if possible
  • Take regular breaks – a break of at least 15 minutes after every two hours or every 100 miles is recommended
  • Don’t drink alcohol before a trip. Even a small amount can significantly contribute to driver fatigue
  • Avoid driving at times when you’d usually be sleeping
  • If you feel you’re becoming drowsy, consider pulling over somewhere safe (and legal) to take a 15 minute powernap.

GEM Motoring Assist’s video on the dangers of fatigue is available at: https://blog.motoringassist.com/road-safety/road-safety-general/dangers-fatigue/

Be prepared: Fleet managers’ action list for vehicle and drive ID and document changes over ‘no Brexit’ deal

The UK has exited the European Union, but until the end of the year there is a transition period during which rules and regulations remain unchanged.

However, there is much for fleet decision-makers to do by way of readiness for January 1, 2021 with industry experts advising “be prepared”.

Over the coming months, UK Government and European Union officials will be holding intense discussions to, the UK hopes, ensure that transition is as smooth as possible and the regulatory status quo remains in place as far as possible.

The UK Government has stated that it would not seek any extension to the transition period thereby putting pressure on officials to have agreements in place in just 11 months.

Documentation required by drivers travelling overseas and required vehicle identifiers could change in the event of the UK Government failing to forge agreements with the European Union. Highlighted below are the key issues.

International Driving Permits: Any requirement for a driver to hold one or more International Driving Permit (IDP) is dependent on the outcome of trade talks between the UK and the European Union.

Currently UK driving licence holders who live in the UK can drive in all European Union and European Economic Area countries using their UK driving licence. In addition to a UK driving licence, an IDP is only required to drive in some countries outside of the European Union and European Economic Area.

In the event that there is no European Union exit deal negotiated, the UK Government has previously said that it would seek to put in place new arrangements for European Union and European Economic Area countries to recognise UK driving licences when people were visiting, for example on holiday or business trips.

However, if no agreements are reached then there are three types of IDP, although in all likelihood either one governed by the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic or one governed by the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic will be required. Which one is required for a journey abroad depends on the country/countries being visited. An IDP is only available from a Post Office at a cost of £5.50.

As a result businesses and drivers should check if they require an IDP and which one. Further information is available at:

Insurance: The Association of British Insurers has urged drivers to contact their insurer for a Green Card – an international certificate of insurance – and take it with them if they wish to drive their vehicle in the European Union, the European Economic Area and some other countries (Andorra, Serbia and Switzerland) in the event of no agreement being in place following the transition period. In certain instances, such as fleet insurance, multiple Green Cards may be required.

Green Cards will be required under regulations as proof of insurance. Those who travel without one may be breaking the law, which applies to both businesses and individuals. The same requirements will apply to European Union motorists travelling to the UK.

Best practice advice for fleet operators is to contact the company’s vehicle insurance provider ASAP and at least one month before any date of travel overseas.

Non-UK driving licence holders: Companies have been urged to “thoroughly check” the validity of non-UK driving licence holders during the post-Brexit transition period.

The call has come from the Association for Driving Licence Verification (ADLV), which is urging companies to use the transition period to review the current actions they take in respect of non-British licence holders driving or employed in the UK, particularly in respect of convictions in the UK.

Although not shown on overseas licences, they are still recorded by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). Consequently, the ADLV says that checking convictions enables the verification of all drivers against DVLA records as a minimum requirement for someone working and driving in the UK.

The organisation’s chairman Malcolm Maycock said: “Few companies seem to recognise the very real requirements for thoroughly checking non-UK licence holders entering the country.

“Whilst their physical licence identifies the country where they passed their test, an expiry date and the category of vehicle they can drive, it doesn’t provide convictions which may be held at the DVLA for motoring offences committed in the UK. By checking non-UK licences, companies maintain far greater control of risk and contribute greatly to road safety.”

Additionally, employers should review and document licence categories, expiry dates and locations where a driver passed their test – just because an employee has a European Union licence it may not mean they passed their test in a member country. When an employee with a non-UK driving licence started to drive in the UK should also be recorded.

Vehicle number plates and national identifiers: Under international conventions, GB is the distinguishing sign to display on UK-registered vehicles when driving outside of the UK, including in the European Union and European Economic Area.

The AA has advised that many UK drivers may have to purchase GB stickers as their Euro-style ‘GB’ vehicle number plates may not be recognised after the transition period.

However, drivers will not need a GB sticker to drive outside the UK if they replace a Euro-plate with a number plate that features the GB sign without the European Union flag.

Vehicle registration documents: Vehicle registration documents are required to be carried when driving abroad. That means either a vehicle’s log book (V5C) or drivers of leased and rented vehicles have an obligation to obtain a VE103 certificate from their hire or lease company before taking their vehicle overseas.

Both the V5C and the VE103 are essential documentation that prove drivers have permission to drive the vehicle. Without that documentation, drivers could be subject to delays at the border, or in the worst instance, have their vehicle impounded.

Road traffic crashes in the European Union involving UK residents and European Union drivers visiting or living in the UK: UK residents involved in a road traffic crash in a European Union or European Economic Area country should not expect to be able to make a claim in respect of that incident via a UK-based Claims Representative or the UK Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB).

Instead, UK residents involved in a road crash may need to bring a claim against either the driver or the insurer of the vehicle in the European Union or European Economic Area country where the incident happened. That may involve bringing the claim in the local language.

In the event of a crash in a European Union or European Economic Area country caused by an uninsured or an untraced driver, UK residents may not receive compensation if there is no agreement. That, said the Department for Transport, would vary from country to country.

Unlocking connected vehicle data set to improve UK road safety, but challenges must be overcome

Connected vehicle data has the potential to end the scourge of potholes, improve driver behaviour and reduce the impact of incidents on UK roads.

However, major challenges need to be overcome to unlock the value of connected vehicle data including improving public and business trust in information sharing, lack of awareness of existing standards and technology maturity levels.

The key benefits of in-vehicle data are identified as:

  • Driver behaviour monitoring: Including the ability to analyse the way a vehicle is being driven, with the possibility for interventions to educate drivers on how to improve their behaviour on the road.
  • Road condition monitoring: Potential uses include identifying dangerous road conditions such as ice, which could be used to inform drivers using the same road; or collecting data on potholes and road infrastructure defects that local and national highways authorities can plan maintenance for.
  • Predictive maintenance: Collecting vehicle component performance data and alerting drives and fleet managers – and motor manufacturers – of potential failures and enabling maintenance to be planned in advance.
  • Supporting Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) journey platforms: Data such as vehicle location and speed of travel could be used to inform journey planning and booking car parking or tickets for onward travel via public transport.
  • Identifying ‘abnormal’ traffic behaviour: Changes in traffic patterns – such as slower speeds – could be used to identify incidents and road congestion, and inform drivers and authorities responsible for traffic management.

Fleet Service Great Britain (Fleet Service GB) is already pursuing the connected vehicle data pathway with its intelligent integrated online dashboards delivering real-time critical headline data on vehicles and drivers to the fingertips of fleet managers.

The technology used by Fleet Service GB to measure vehicle and driver data and performance in real-time – and flag up action areas – will continually be enhanced as vehicle connectivity intensifies and more data feeds can be obtained.

Last year, 71% of new vehicles registered in the UK were ‘connected’ to some degree and that figure is expected to reach 100% by 2026, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, thus creating ‘a rich data stream which will enable further innovation in the sector’.

As the UK transitions to a wholly autonomous vehicle future over the next 15 years – just three vehicle replacement cycles for many fleets – the automotive industry has defined six levels of connectivity, level 0 through to level 5.

Currently the vast majority of vehicles that are ‘connected’ are at level 1. That means they are equipped with ‘basic driver assistance’ features such as lane departure warning or adaptive cruise control and require an individual ‘to drive’.

By 2026 all vehicles will have a degree of connectivity with 16% at level 2, 14% at level 3 and 7% at level 4. Level 2 connected features are level 1 features but they operate in tandem with each other rather than separately; level 3 and level 4 features ‘can drive a vehicle under limited conditions’, while level 5 features can drive a vehicle ‘under all conditions’. It is unlikely that such vehicles will be available until 2035.

The Connected Places Catapult (CPC), which accelerates smarter living and travelling in and between the places of tomorrow and works with the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) across Government to support the market for connected and automated vehicles, has conducted a stakeholder workshop seeking to understand what challenges would need to be overcome to unlock the value of connected vehicle data in the UK.

Industry leaders who took part in the research called for a number of activities to be launched in the UK before 2025 to address the challenges identified. These included tasks around skill development, technology development, identification of business benefits and updating regulation.

Among the ‘key risks’ of in-vehicle data identified at the workshop were:

  • Gaps in the standards, requirements and validation of data quality that could impact on the delivery of services
  • A risk that data owners and service providers could lock customers into their data ecosystem and create a market monopoly
  • Predictive vehicle maintenance providers could force vehicle owners to use authorised service providers
  • A risk that the volume of data collected was too large for systems to process and manage efficiently and accurately
  • With growing connectivity there were risks that data access points could be used by hackers to gain control of a vehicle.

Henry Tse, CPC director of new mobility technologies, said: “There is a market need to pull data and insights together and increase knowledge-sharing across the connected vehicle sector, rather than it be stored in disparate locations. Doing this will unlock a host of benefits which could improve road safety for users, unlock economic benefits through a more efficient transport system and create innovative new businesses and services.

“We are now recommending the establishment of a consortium which can support and guide the activities and projects in this area, create a clear industry vision and accelerate the value the UK gets from this data in the new decade”

Iain Forbes, head of the CCAV, said: “In-vehicle data offers a host of potential benefits to UK consumers. This roadmap is a useful contribution to the essential work on how this data could be used to unlock exciting new services in a safe and sustainable way.”

Fleets face threat of rocketing vehicle and component price rises amid risk of no UK/EU regulatory alignment

Alarm bells are ringing across the motor industry that Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid’s decision that the UK will not “stay close to the European Union” after Brexit will trigger new vehicle and component price rises.

Furthermore, with the possibility of no regulatory alignment with the European Union in a future trading relationship, the motor industry’s well-established ‘just-in-time’ business model could be significantly impacted triggering longer vehicle lead times and component and spare part delivery delays resulting in increased fleet vehicle downtime due to administrative hold-ups at point of import.

In a headline-grabbing interview with the Financial Times (January 18, 2020), the Chancellor’s message to business following the UK’s January 31 departure from the European Union and the subsequent end of 2020 transition period was: “There will not be alignment, we will not be a rule-taker, we will not be in the single market and we will not be in the customs union.”

Saying that the required work would be “done by the end of the year”, Mr Javid told businesses to “adjust” to the new reality amid the possibility of there being no comprehensive free trade deal with the European Union with the result being some tariffs, quotes and border restrictions.

Late last year UK and European motor industry chiefs warned against diverging from European Union regulations highlighting concerns about the lack of frictionless trade and customs delays harming the industry’s ‘just-in-time’ operating model and the potential for World Trade Organisation tariffs impacting on the cost of vehicles and components.

The impact of tariffs – unless brands and their retail networks can absorb the additional costs which some have already warned they cannot – would see the list price of cars rising by 10%; commercial vehicle prices rising by up to 22% (an average 13.5% for light vans); and the cost of vehicle components by up to 4.5%.

What’s more, some motor manufacturers have already warned that the burden of price rises could mean that available model choice is reduced.

However, the Chancellor countered in the Financial Times interview: “Japan sells cars to the European Union but they don’t follow European Union rules.”

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said its priority was to avoid “expensive tariffs and other behind-the-border barriers”.

Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), said in response to Mr Javid’s interview: “UK fleets have enough uncertainty to cope with at the moment without having to worry about what kind of regulatory alignment the UK has with the European Union on vehicles and parts.

“Any sudden split from European Union rules could potentially create huge additional cost and administrative burdens. The sector is versatile and adaptable, but needs clear, specific and well-signposted details on future trading terms and conditions.”

What’s more, with the pressure on the UK and the European Union to agree a full trade deal by the end of 2020 – the Government’s self-imposed transition period – the BVRLA said: “This has increased the risk of a disruptive exit from the European Union at the end of 2020, and unless a sector-specific deal for the automotive sector is agreed in time raises the odds of negative consequences for businesses as they may not know how the future looks until late in the day.”

The European Union has confirmed that trade talks will not start before the end of February 2020. The BVRLA said in a briefing update: “One key date to look out for is July 1, 2020. This is when the UK and European Union would need to agree any transition extension past December 2020.”

The Association added: “But by July 1, we will know if there is even higher risk of a ‘hard’ Brexit and the possibility of tariffs or non-tariffs barriers in the automotive and other sectors. In the absence of a satisfactory automotive specific trade deal, the Government will still need to help our sector mitigate new tariffs/non-tariff barriers, possibly in a second Budget during 2020, or as part of a three-year Spending Review.”

What could be in Chancellor Sajid Javid’s Budget box for fleets?

Budget Day is Wednesday, March 11 and fleet chiefs are hoping for a raft of measures that will signpost the fiscal way forward and end the Brexit-inspired paralysis that has hampered Government decision-making in the past 12 months.

There has not been a Budget since October 2018 – there was a Spring Statement in March last year and company car benefit-in-kind tax rates for 2020/21 to 2022/23 inclusive were announced in July.

However, those rates have yet to be enshrined in law as neither an autumn 2019 Budget nor the resulting Finance Bill materialised due to the House of Commons being dominated by Brexit debate and then a general election being held prior to Christmas.

Now, with the Conservative Party enjoying a substantial majority in the House of Commons, a raft of measures could be announced in Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid’s forthcoming Budget to “get Britain moving” and that will impact on fleet operations.

First of all, fleet decision-makers will be hoping that the already announced company car benefit-in-kind tax rates for 2020/21 and the following two tax years will be confirmed and then be ratified in legislation. After all, as the Budget is less than a month before the start of the next fiscal year fleet chiefs and company car drivers will have made vehicle decisions based on an expectation that what was announced last July will not be changed.

As announced, for 2020/21 and 2021/22 separate company car benefit-in-kind tax rates will apply depending whether a vehicle was first registered before or after April 6, 2020 before realigning in 2022/23 – see http://www.fleetservicegb.co.uk/new-company-car-tax-regime/.

Furthermore, to enable fleet bosses and company car drivers to plan for the future, industry organisations have called on the Chancellor to announce benefit-in-kind tax rates for at least the following three tax years.

They point to the fact that many fleets and company car drivers now run vehicles for four years and into a fifth so it was only fair that they knew what the tax burden was for the whole fleet life of a vehicle.

Additionally, they want the Chancellor to confirm that the company car benefit-in-kind tax schedule for pure electric vehicles – 0% from 2020/21 – and plug-in models will be maintained at the levels already announced beyond 2022/23 for several more years to enable the embryonic sector to become established.

It is also hoped that the Chancellor will provide much greater clarity around the timescale for sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans to be axed with 2030, 2035 and 2040 all dates that are possible.

As one industry expert said: “We know that the Government is driving fleets and consumers down the electric vehicle road, but to date there remains a vagueness about the details as to how the Government intends to improve air quality and its targets.”

Look out also for the Chancellor to announce a shake-up in Vehicle Excise Duty on light commercial vehicles. In 2018 the Government published a consultation on reform exploring the creation of a graduated first year rate for new vans, as is already in place for cars. It would replace the current flat rate regime.

In the 2018 autumn Budget, the Government announced that based on the consultation responses it was looking at:

  • Further developing its understanding of the impacts of Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for vans, ahead of announcing the new rates and bands
  • Ensuring the new system took into account the weight of a van by introducing a two-category approach
  • Providing ongoing incentives, beyond the first-year, for new zero emission, ultra-low emission and other alternatively fuelled vans.

Since then there has been silence from HM Treasury. However, at the time the Government said it was aiming to introduce the new Vehicle Excise Duty system in April 2021.

Calls have also been made in the run-up to the Budget for the Chancellor to scrap VAT on the sale of electric cars.

The demand came from the AA, which also wants VAT to be scrapped on monthly lease rentals and the premium Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) rate, applied to vehicles with a list price in excess of £40,000, to be removed from electric vehicles to encourage uptake.

The motoring organisation says that as the £320 a year Vehicle Excise Duty supplement is only applied in years two to six of a vehicle’s life, the change would have a “positive impact” on the sale of used electric vehicles.

AA president Edmund King said: “The UK car parc needs a shock to the system. Eight out of 10 drivers say improving air quality is important to them, but they are confused by current policies and as such many have stuck with older, more polluting cars.

“With electric vehicles making up just 0.2% of the nation’s cars, there is a long way to go to meet the official target of at least half new car sales to be ultra-low emission by 2030. Our proposal would help to achieve that goal more quickly.”

He concluded: “Drivers want to amplify their wishes to go electric. We hope by plugging this idea the country will unite and deliver positive change.”

Additionally, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) and more than 20 other organisations have joined forces to call on the Government to pledge its continued support for the Plug-in Car and Van Grants.

Currently there is no commitment to continue the grants – £3,500 for a zero emission car and £8,000 for a plug-in van beyond 2020.

BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “Fleets are in a unique position to accelerate the shift to more sustainable road transport, but we need the right incentives in place and the Plug-In Grants are crucial.”

The BVRLA also wants to see a re-introduction of the Plug-In Grant for hybrid electric cars at least as a short term measure, particularly with supply constraints on 100% electric vehicles extending, in some cases, to nine months and even longer.

There has also been a repeat of the annual pre-Budget calls for contract hire and leasing companies to benefit from 100% first year capital allowances on electric and ultra-low emission vehicles and the lease rental restriction on those models to be abolished, which would enable suppliers to cut monthly lease rates if the tax savings were passed on to customers.